When Petty Officer 3rd Class Brady Ashment started looking for a place to live in Rockland, Maine, a few months ago, the nationwide housing shortage became all too real for his soon-to-be family of six. Not only was military housing unavailable in the area, two-bedroom apartments were renting for more than $2,000 a month. This exceeded his basic allowance for housing by at least $600.
So Ashment, a boatswain mate who joined the Coast Guard, in part, so his children could grow up near the sea, prepared his wife for another tight squeeze. “I figured we lived in a trailer in Washington,” he said of his last duty station. “It definitely can be tough, but you do what you need to do.”
Fortunately, June Ledwith, the local housing officer with Coast Guard Sector Northern New England - which includes Maine - had a better idea. By taking advantage of the Family Leased Housing (FLH) program, she was able to get Ashment a three-bedroom house in a good neighborhood with a 10-minute commute. “To find a unit that would accommodate his large family was hard,” she said. “But it’s a quality of life issue.”
With the housing rental market in some locations providing limited options, the Coast Guard is highlighting leased housing as another way families and unaccompanied personnel might find something affordable when they PCS. “It never hurts to remind people what options are available,” said Wayne Canfield, the Coast Guard Housing Program Manager, “particularly in coastal areas.”
How does it work?
Generally, service members must accept a suitable Coast Guard or Department of Defense (DoD) property before renting on the commercial market. But when a site doesn’t have sufficient housing and the market is unaffordable, the Coast Guard is authorized to lease properties for families or individuals. Even before house prices started their latest climb, this was particularly true in designated critical housing areas (CHA) – often posts near the coast, such as the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where housing is in short supply and service members compete with tourists for a place to live.
The FLH program applies to members whose dependents accompany them. The Unaccompanied Personnel Leased Housing (UPLH) program is for those without dependents. With both, the Coast Guard sets up a lease directly with the landlord, usually for at least 12 months. Utilities, with the exception of telephone and cable, are kept in the landlord’s name but included in the rent amount. The total cost should not exceed your allowances for housing and out-of-pocket expenses. If it does the Coast Guard covers the difference.
Who is eligible?
Leased housing is typically offered to members based on pay grade and family composition, but waivers may be considered on a case-by-case basis. If your total cost of housing exceeds your allowances for housing at your new station, it’s worth exploring. You can find more guidance in the Coast Guard Housing Manual, COMDTINST M11101.13G in Chapter 5 and Tables 5-1 and 5-2.
The best thing to do, as Ashment learned, is contact the Local Housing Office (LHO), as soon as you get your orders. The LHO are experts on the area and know things that you don’t. Plus, leases take time. Canfield estimates that it can take a couple of weeks or two to three months depending on the landlord – and it’s not always an easy sell. “We are the government,” he said. “We have requirements and property owners have to get in databases. Some don’t like that.”
It’s also important to stay realistic. Even with leased housing, the usual rules still apply. Upon receiving PCS orders, all service members are required to submit an Application for Assignment to Housing, DD Form 1746 and accept Coast Guard housing if it is offered. Homes are expected to be adequate, but not be overly large or offer too many amenities. You can’t turn down an otherwise suitable property in the hope of finding something better or because the landlord doesn’t allow pets.
Ledwith is grateful for another tool to help service members be more comfortable in their new homes, which she sees as critical to operational success. “If your family isn’t settled safe and secure,” she said. “how can you focus on your mission.”
Ashment agrees. His three kids now have rooms and a nice neighborhood to play in while they await their new sibling. “I also notice my wife is a lot less stressed when I come home,” he said. “It’s a lot easier.”